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We won't stop Russians competing: Putin


Russian athletes will be free to take part in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games under the Olympic flag, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

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“We will definitely not be announcing any sort of blockades and will not be impeding the participation of our athletes if any of them decided to take part in the Olympics under the neutral status,” Putin was quoted by the state news agency TASS.

Individual Russian athletes may still be able to compete in South Korea, subject to meeting strict anti-doping guidelines, and would be referred to as “Olympic Athlete(s) from Russia” at the Games.

IOC president Thomas Bach said at his closing news conference after two days of meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, that leaving Russia in the name was “reflecting reality” that its athletes would be in South Korea.

The country plans to host an Olympic summit with athletes, coaches and officials on December 12 to decide whether to accept the places available.

Putin seemed to confirm the earlier call of Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.

“We all know the athletes who will be going to the Olympics and their uniform will have the white, red and blue colours,” Dvorkovich told state media.

“We will all know that they will be representing Russia. I believe that they should go.”

Dvorkovich did hit out at the IOC, saying its actions “actions pose a manifestation of disrespect to the Olympic Games,” he said.

“This was an unfair decision.”

In recent weeks more than two dozen Russian athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics on allegations that they used performance-enhancing drugs in the 2014 schemes which also included sample-swapping.

Bach said he hoped those attending would “represent a new generation of clean Russian athletes in the Games and build a bridge into a clean future of Russian sport.”

And it is possible the Russian flag could be used in the closing ceremony, Bach said, as a “signal that there Russia has then accepted and respected the sanction and that then a new beginning is possible… this could be then a really strong message for a new beginning.”

Many Russians had earlier taken to Twitter to express outrage over the IOC decision, tweeting under the hashtag “no Russia, no games.”

The doping allegations have been widely perceived in Russia as being politically motivated by Western rivals.

Russia topped the Sochi medal table but has now lost 11 medals – including four golds – as the IOC sanctioned 25 Russian athletes.

At his media conference, Bach said those denied medals in Sochi would be invited to the Pyeongchang Games and that medal ceremonies could be arranged in Lausanne or future sporting events.


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